The 2014 NCAA tournament has lived up to the lofty expectations, but the action of the Sweet 16 Thursday and Friday has college basketball fans ready for the next chapter of March Madness.
With top seeds still alive and several Cinderella teams fighting to build momentum on their dream runs, the fourth round of the tournament should be even more exciting than the first three.
Here is all the vital updated bracket information, a full schedule for the remainder of the tourney and predictions for the entire Sweet 16.
All Your Bracket Essentials
|Full 2014 March Madness Schedule and Picks|
|Date||Regional Semifinals||Time (ET)||TV||Predicted Winner|
|Thu, March 27||(11) Dayton vs. (10) Stanford||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Stanford|
|Thu, March 27||(6) Baylor vs. (2) Wisconsin||7:47 p.m.||TBS||Baylor|
|Thu, March 27||(4) UCLA vs. (1) Florida||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Florida|
|Thu, March 27||(4) San Diego State vs. (1) Arizona||10:17 p.m.||TBS||Arizona|
|Fri, March 28||(11) Tennessee vs. (2) Michigan||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Tennessee|
|Fri, March 28||(7) Connecticut vs. (3) Iowa State||7:27 p.m.||TBS||UConn|
|Fri, March 28||(8) Kentucky vs. (4) Louisville||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Louisville|
|Fri, March 28||(4) Michigan State vs. (1) Virginia||9:57 p.m.||TBS||Michigan State|
|Date||Regional Finals||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Sat, March 29||Regional Final - TBD||6 p.m.||TBS||March Madness Live|
|Sat, March 29||Regional Final - TBD||8:30 p.m.||TBS||March Madness Live|
|Sun, March 30||Regional Final - TBD||2:10 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Sun, March 30||Regional Final - TBD||4:55 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
|Date||National Semifinals||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Sat, April 5||National Semifinal - TBD||6 p.m.||TBS, TNT, truTV||March Madness Live|
|Sat, April 5||National Semifinal - TBD||8:30 p.m.||TBS, TNT, truTV||March Madness Live|
|Date||National Championship||Time (ET)||TV||Live Stream|
|Mon, April 7||National Championship - TBD||9:10 p.m.||CBS||March Madness Live|
Sweet 16 Game You Cannot Miss: No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky
While there is no shortage of amazing matchups in the Sweet 16, the most intriguing battle will be the latest installment of the in-state rivalry between the No. 4 seed Louisville Cardinals (31-5, 15-3 AAC) and the No. 8 seed Kentucky Wildcats (26-10, 12-6 SEC).
These two programs have plenty of history, but the fact that this will be only the fourth time the past two national champions have met in the tournament, according to ESPN’s stats department, adds even more relevance to this matchup:
Kentucky comes into this game as the ultimate unknown. After starting the season slow before turning it on at the end of the year, the Wildcats are led by freshman stars James Young, Julius Randle and the brother tandem of Andrew and Aaron Harrison.
Without much college experience and a fresh outlook on the NCAA tournament, the young players have not flinched under pressure and managed to beat a tough Kansas State team in the second round and the No. 1 seed Wichita State in the third round.
Now, Kentucky’s toughest test comes against Louisville.
The biggest knock on the Cardinals is their inconsistency in the defensive zone. While there is no questioning the offensive dominance of the program, head coach Rick Pitino told Jeffrey Greer of The Courier-Journal about his team’s approach to defense:
You know, the NCAA, the one thing I've known throughout the years, being in this business, is people get very conservative, and they talk about‑‑ I've always felt‑‑ you hear the expression defense wins championships. A lack of offense keeps you from winning a championship. All these teams can guard. And it's really, really important. We beat Michigan and Wichita State and the teams before that, and we were a very good defense because of our offense. We didn't win because of our defense. Every team can play defense at this stage. So you've got to have great offense to win, and you've got to really execute and make free throws, do smart things.
As Pitino said, success for Louisville will come on the shoulders of its explosive offense.
The Cardinals were eighth in the nation with an average of 82.1 points per game this season, but it was the 15.7 assists per game and .474 field-goal percentage that showed how unselfish and disciplined the offensive unit has been.
While both teams have been impressive on the glass, the experience in the starting lineup and on the bench for Pitino’s program will have Wildcats head coach John Calipari and his team on the ropes all game.
As long as senior guard Russ Smith continues to play inspired basketball and leads by example, Louisville will pull off the hard-fought victory over Kentucky.
Predicted Final Score: Louisville 80, Kentucky 76
Stats via ESPN.com.